Thursday, March 16, 2017

Political hypochondriacs: Optimism report

Roller Coaster, by gechalx/DeviantArt. Nowhere to go but up! What's that you say?

It's so weird how we live now, like political hypochondriacs, constantly checking the national temperature for clues to how sick we are.

And that goes for Team Optimist as well as the despairing. I'm really pumped because yesterday was a Good Day, where Dutch voters decisively rejected fascism, I think, and Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu and Judge Theodore Chuang in Greenbelt, Maryland both concluded in separate cases that President Trump's "travel order" is meant as the fulfillment of his often repeated campaign promises of a "complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering this country until our country's representatives can figure out just what in the hell is going on."

Which—I'm probably repeating myself here, but I can't get over it—is a funny thing, in the obvious sense that the order banning visitors from six countries (the seven countries of the original January order minus Iraq, whose army has been fighting a war on behalf of the United States for several years so that it seemed sort of mean-spirited to shut them out) for 90 days, subject to certain limitations, waivers, and exceptions, and suspending the processing of all refugee travel applications from anywhere for 120 days and capping the total number accepted under Refugee Admissions Program for fiscal 2017 at 50,000, is nothing like a complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering this country, in that there are hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world, from Britain (home of the Muslim would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid) to Indonesia and the (primarily Christian) Philippines, long plagued by terrorist groups such as Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, who are not affected by the order at all.

As the Trump defenders are fond of reminding us, like Southern aristocrats telling us they can't possibly be racist: "I have black people in my house every day! The cook, the maid, the chauffeur, the gardener..."

The purpose of the order really is not to stop Muslims from entering the country, and it's not to protect us against terrorists either—I can never get excited about border protection myself, and yet even I am shocked by the way the administration wants to slash funding for agencies that protect the borders in order to pay for that wall that Mexico declines to pay for and which will not, according to all the experts, protect the border at all:
The proposal, drawn up by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), also would slash the budget of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which provides disaster relief after hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters. The Coast Guard’s $9.1 billion budget in 2017 would be cut 14 percent to about $7.8 billion, while the TSA and FEMA budgets would be reduced about 11 percent each to $4.5 billion and $3.6 billion, respectively. (Washington Post, March 7)
But if you leave out the 15 Saudi citizens, two from UAE, and one each from Egypt and Lebanon, who carried out the September 11 attacks, that's not one from a country on the list, there have been practically no successful foreign terrorists in the United States for years, etc. etc., you've heard it all before.

The purpose of the order isn't to stop Muslims from entering the country, but it's to persuade Trump's "base" voters that Trump did exactly that, or tried his best to, without of course affecting the Trump Organization's business activities in the UAE and Egypt and its associations with Saudi investors and golf buddies. It's to say he is keeping a campaign promise without actually doing it, which requires some visible suffering on the part of Muslims—weeping as their families are separated, stranded in airports, left to die at the hands of Assad or ISIS or Shabab or the Saudi bombs in Yemen—so that the Trump cult sees it's being done. And it's inherently discriminatory because the sufferers have to be Muslims in order to achieve the desired effect. I'm really glad to see the Emperor's going to lose Round 2.

Also pleased to report—this is breaking news this morning—that even as US Attorney Preet Bharara has been successfully hounded out of office, whether in the hope of protecting Fox News, or the Russian intelligence services, or the Emperor himself—his former office in New York City has announced that Mayor Bill De Blasio and his associates have been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing in the separate federal and municipal investigations into his 2014 campaign to help elect Democrats to the New York State Senate (which would have been very good for the city, since we are helplessly dependent on the state legislature not just for funding but for approving everything from educational testing policy to our own internal taxation) and the possibility that donors may have asked for (not received) favors.

Acting US Attorney Joon Kim helpfully showed how FBI director James Comey ought to have behaved in reference to the various investigations of the end of the presidential campaign season in his statement:
“Although it is rare that we issue a public statement about the status of an investigation, we believe it appropriate in this case at this time, in order not to unduly influence the upcoming campaign and Mayoral election.”
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance—presumably still nursing the fantasy that he has a chance of becoming mayor himself—displayed an echo of how Comey did behave, when he had to admit that Hillary Clinton had done nothing wrong and felt the need to throw in the accusation that she'd been "extremely careless":
“This conclusion is not an endorsement of the conduct at issue,” he wrote. “Indeed, the transactions appear contrary to the intent and spirit of the laws that impose candidate contribution limits, laws which are meant to prevent ‘corruption and the appearance of corruption’ in the campaign finance process.”
Note how he doesn't say whose conduct, hoping the readers will come away with the feeling that the mayor has been tainted. With Democrats like that, who needs Republicans?

Still, Team Optimist is feeling good. 

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